By Balbir Punj
The two recent missives by the Christian clergy have made three points — that the Constitution of India is under a serious threat; pluralistic ethos are in danger; and minorities, Adivasis and Dalits are being persecuted. The statements by the two Bishops do not refer to anyone by name. However, shorn of verbose, it is a call to the "faithful" to actively work for the defeat of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2019 general elections. It is nothing but politics by subterfuge. Smear campaigns Politics has its own grammar. It can be ugly, and irresponsible allegations against rivals and smear campaigns are often its essential ingredients. The two letters from the Bishops are templates of such stinking politics. Whether the two have done the right thing by exposing the church to all such risks, is for the laity to reflect. The letters are replete with words such as democracy, pluralism, intellectual and religious freedom, secularism, social justice and human rights. Going by the church’s record on these issues, use of such words smacks of hypocrisy. The church in India did not protest when over 4,000 Sikhs were lynched in 1984 in the wake of Mrs Indira Gandhi’s assassination. The period between 1989 and 1991 witnessed killings and persecution of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley. Local Muslims fired by Islamic zeal and encouraged by Pakistan (both in terms of arms and training) raped their women and demolished their temples in dozens with impunity. In February 2002, 59 "karsevaks" were burnt alive at Godhra. Did all these tragedies touch the conscious of the church? Did it ever protest? Even the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of April 13, 1919, could not move the church. And there were missionaries in India who justified British military action in Punjab. Christianity’s first interaction with Hindu India took place about 1,600 years before the Constitution came into being. Christians had become suspect in Iran from the fourth century onwards when Iran’s old adversary, the Roman Empire, became a Christian state. They fled their homeland and sought refuge in the Malabar region. Liberal tradition Soon, they were joined by refugees from Syria and Armenia. No Hindu, raja or commoner, ever bothered about what the refugees believed in or what God they worshipped. In due course, the refugees came to be known as Syrian Christians. When did "intolerance" creep into the Hindu-Christian relationship? In 1542, Saint Francis Xavier landed in Goa with a mandate to discipline heretics and wage a war against paganism and infidels. In the following centuries, under the Portuguese regime, forced mass conversions and persecution of non-Christians became a norm. Even the Syrian Christians in Kerala did not escape the missionary zeal of the Catholic Church. According to BR Ambedkar, “The inquisitors of Goa discovered that they were heretics and like a wolf on the fold, down came the delegates of the Pope upon the Syrian Churches.” At that time, in Europe newly emerging Protestant faith and Vatican were fighting an all-out war. Countless innocents were burnt on stakes, skinned alive and tortured to death. All this savagery, lasting several centuries, was in the name of God and at the instance of two rival churches. Foreign funds The church is an inheritor of such a "proud" legacy and still has the gumption to pontificate on noble values such as "tolerance" and "secularism". India is secular, not because of the Constitution. Instead, the Constitution is secular because of the ageless pluralistic Hindu traditions. Why is the church upset with the Modi regime? Illegal conversions are now more difficult. Numerous NGOs, wearing various masks, work as the foot soldiers of the church. Moolah from abroad keeps this unholy nexus going. The flow of illegal funds from abroad, a lifeline for several dubious NGOs, has since been chocked. Their foreign funding dropped from Rs 17,773 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 6,499 crore in 2016-17. While the church obviously dislikes Modi, there is a long list of distinguished Indians — ranging from Swami Vivekananda to Mahatma Gandhi — who have expressed disgust with the predatory character of the church. The Niyogi Committee report, published by Congress government of Madhya Pradesh in 1956, exposes many of the church’s shenanigans. Over the years, the church has made necessary changes in its strategy. But its objectives and techniques remain unchanged.